Veterans in Society 2015: Race and/or Reconciliation

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The 3rd annual Veterans in Society (ViS) Conference took place 12-14 November, following Veterans Day 2015, at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. Here is the program. You also can download a program for Speed Killed My Cousin.

Theme: “Veterans in Society: Race and/or Reconciliation.”

- Thursday Keynote Speaker: Dr. James Marten, Marquette University, author of several books about veterans, to include America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014).
- Friday Luncheon Speaker: Secretary, John C. Harvey, Jr., Admiral, U.S. Navy, (RET.), Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, Commonwealth of Virginia.
-Theater Event–Friday night at 8 pm: Speed Killed My Cousin (playwright Linda Parris-Bailey just received a 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award). Program
-Saturday Plenary Speaker: Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
-Saturday panel focusing on the symbolism and legacy of the Confederate Battle Flag, featuring John Coski, director of the Museum of the Confederacy, and Wornie Reed, director of VT’s Race and Social Policy Research Center.

The third annual Veterans in Society conference is an interdisciplinary event featuring speakers from seven disciplines. The conference schedule is available here.

As we noted last year, the topic of veterans’ reintegration into society has been challenging for governments and civilian society. Reintegration and reconciliation are intimately linked. Many of the deepest and most lasting wounds of war are a result of clashes between racial and ethnic groups, clashes that often do not fit Western conventions of what war is – and thus of who and what veterans are, what they need, and what they can offer after fighting has dropped from headlines. As a case study, the American Civil War provides a particularly powerful point of departure from which to explore veterans’ experiences with reconciliation when deep social divisions such as race and ethnicity cut across other sources of identity, notably shared military experiences.

Guest Speaker: Dr. James Marten, Marquette University, author of

- America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014).
- Children and Youth during the Civil War Era. Editor. (New York: New York University Press, 2012).
- Sing Not War: Civil War Veterans in Gilded Age America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). Alternate Selection, History Book Club.

Theater Event: Speed Killed My Cousin — watch trailer

Hosted by the Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society (CSRS), the Virginia Tech University Libraries, the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention (CPSVP), the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, the Race and Public Policy Center, and the Virginia Tech Center for the Arts, all at Virginia Tech.

Current sponsors include the VT Center for the Arts; the VA Center for Civil War Studies; the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH); the VT University Libraries; the Office of the Provost; the VT Graduate School; the VT College of Architecture and Urban Studies; the VT College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (CLAHS); the VT College of Natural Resources and Environment; the VT Pamplin College of Business; the VT Office of Inclusion and Diversity; the VT Office of Human Resources; the VT Office of Student Affairs; the VT Institute for Policy and Governance; the VT Student Success Center; the VT Veterans Caucus; the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention; the Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement; the Race and Social Policy Research Center; the Virginia Tech departments of English, History, and Sociology; Women’s and Gender Studies Program; Student Veterans at VT (Vets@VT); the regional chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA); the Department of English’s Distinguished Alumni Board (DAB); the National Security Research Thrust (ICTAS); and Radford University’s McConnell Library.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 16 of 16
  • Race and/or Reconciliation : Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Veterans in Society
    (Virginia Tech, 2016)
    The Veterans in Society (ViS) research group is proud to present the proceedings of the Third Conference on Veterans in Society: Race and/or Reconciliation, with papers that represent a wide range of research and community engagement, and a focus that speaks to the growth of our work over the past several years.
  • Heal: An Experience Report
    Williamson, Richard A. (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    For over ten years I have been learning about life with a son who experiences Post- Traumatic Stress. My experiences with both the roadblocks and the resources from my adventure into this realm of the unknown have led me down multiple and conflicting pathways. I have narrowed my energies and focus into an attempt to create a space for healing for our Veterans and their families. Through vast amounts of networking, I have realized the multitude of opportunities available for our Veterans. My goal is to share my experiences with others who may be attempting similar feats to my own and perhaps my history will help others to achieve their goals.
  • The Church: One of the First Military Veterans Organizations
    Price, Stuart V. (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Today, the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes well over 100 military veteran organizations including the American Legion, American Veterans (AMVETS), Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. But these assets, these associations, and these contact resources were not always available. I want to show you how the church "in this case the Baptist church" helped two veterans relocate from the battle trenches of the Civil War to the civilian world following General Robert E. Lee's infamous surrender at Appomattox. The reintegration challenges faced by these two veterans and the assistance they received in addressing them demonstrates how, 150 years ago, the church served as one of our first military veterans organizations.
  • Some were free born. Some were fugitives. Some were slaves. Now they were all veterans.
    Hepburn, Sharon A. Roger (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    This essay centers on the soldiers of the 102nd United States Colored Infantry (USCI), originally organized in August 1863 as the First Michigan Colored Infantry, the only all-black regiment organized in the state and one of only a handful of state raised northern black regiments. Building on the scholarship of Theda Skocpol, Donald Shaffer, Barbara Gannon, and others, an investigation into the lives and activities of this regiment's veterans offers a useful case study in race and reconciliation in the aftermath of the Civil War. African American veterans, because of their status as veterans, were able to combat racism in some aspects of their lives. Utilizing pension claims, GAR records, Soldiers Home files, and other sources, the experiences of veterans from the 102nd USCI reveals much about the typical African American soldier after their service for the Union.
  • War Trauma in the Construction of American Lost-war Culture: From WWI to Vietnam and the Present
    Lembcke, Jerry (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    The war veteran suffering Shell Shock is one of the most enduring images of twentieth century war. Among 21st century media pundits and even some medical professionals, however, few are aware that Shell Shock was largely discredited after WWI, its diagnostic significance overshadowed by its cultural and political meanings. Even fewer observers are aware that Shell Shock played out in inter-war Germany as a metaphor for a nation traumatized by war whose defeat and hurt could only be avenged through more war. This paper will reprise in greater detail this biography of war trauma with attention to: a) The way art, news media, and other cultural forms played into the construction of Shell Shock; b) The Freudian intervention in the matter of traumatized WWI veterans; c) the way filmic representations of veterans intensified the political sentiments of inter-war Germany. The paper will then extend the trajectory of war trauma biography into and beyond the Vietnam War era to show its agency in the construction of a victim-veteran imagery via PTSD and TBI that abets an American lost-war narrative eerily similar to that which remilitarized Germany after the First World War.
  • Race, Civil War Memory, and Sisterhood in the Woman's Relief Corps
    Kennedy, John C. (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    This paper explores the intersections of race and the public remembrances of the American Civil War in the Woman's Relief Corps (WRC), auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It specifically examines the role of slavery, emancipation, and sectional reconciliation in the WRC's discourse about the meaning of the conflict, and how Jim Crow-era racial ideology influenced the scope and effectiveness of African American members within the organization. The extent to which the model of black and white comradeship in the GAR affected the WRC's racial and commemorative policies and objectives will also be considered. Finally, the paper draws lessons from the WRC's experience grappling with issues of race, memory, reconciliation, and the role of veterans and women in memorialization with our own experience in observing the Civil War's sesquicentennial.
  • Models of the Post-Racial World? Rhetorics of Race among U.S. Military Brats
    Nobles, Heidi (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    The U.S. military has long been claimed as a model for racial integration, having been integrated by executive order before the general population; significantly, too, the military is constantly shuffling but organized by service branch and rank, and so installation neighborhoods are more prone to organized diversity than their civilian counterparts, which tend toward homogeneity based on race and class. For the estimated two million children growing up in this system, such experiences of diversity provoke worthwhile questions of what influence those military children will have upon leaving the military system for the civilian world. Many have speculated that military children are more comfortable with constructive racial integration than their civilian peers; as third culture kids, they have been referred to as prototypes for the future due to their blended identities and global backgrounds. Yet as sociologist Dr. Morton Ender noted back in 2006, no one has yet done a study specifically looking at race among military kids; as of 2015, as far as I can tell, this claim remains true. In this paper, I look at the content and quality of what now-adult military kids say about race to explore the constructive elements of their rhetoric about race in and after the system, as well as to consider the unique challenges and anxieties involved in living out racial experiences in unusual and shifting environments.
  • Local Military Matters: Bridging the Military-Civilian Gap through College-Community Interactions
    Hart, D. Alexis (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    The call for papers for the 3rd annual Veterans in Society Conference included a statement made by President Ruscio of Washington & Lee University in which he wondered "whether people with different backgrounds, different experiences and different opinions can address difficult questions and, if not necessarily agree with one another, at least strive, with mutual respect, to better understand each other and to find common ground." Similar questions have been asked by generations of military veterans with respect to the potential impact of their military backgrounds and experiences in their lives as civilians. The oft-cited PEW Research Center's 2011 study of war and sacrifice in the Post-9/11 era draws attention to the "military-civilian gap" and notes that this gap "is much wider among younger respondents." Consequently, as Woll writes, "Reintegration challenges can be particularly pronounced for young service members and veterans enrolling in or returning to colleges, universities . . . where most of the students are younger and lack experience with and exposure to the military." Such lack of experience and understanding on the part of "traditional" college students not only can lead to student-veterans feeling frustrated or isolated in classrooms but also, at an extreme, result in behaviors such as those of the University of Florida fraternity members whose chapter was suspended after an incident in which disabled military veterans were verbally insulted and spat upon.

    In an effort to bridge the "military-civilian gap" and to help military veterans and college students "better understand each other," I designed a first-year seminar titled "Meadville's Military Matters" in which first-year college students at a fouryear liberal arts college interacted with, interviewed, and composed profiles and "war stories" (using David Venditta's War Stories: In Their Own Words as a model) for military veterans in the local community. While doing so, the students were asked to develop responses to the questions: Why does the military matter to the local community, to the nation, the world? What military matters have shaped the local community's economy, history, landscape, etc.?
  • MILITARY BRATS: A Living Study in Race Relations
    Musil, Donna (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, desegregating the United States military. Much has been written about the Order's effect on soldiers; almost none about the powerful effect it has had on generations of military children, who began living in the same neighborhoods and attending the same schools, churches, and playgrounds twenty years before the Civil Rights Movement exploded. Racist speech was also prohibited and defiant children were immediately reported to their parent's commanding officer, who could reprimand or demote their parent. How did this shape the racial attitudes and identity of military children? How have they benefitted and what have been the biggest challenges transitioning out of the military? How might their experiences provide a window into possible solutions for other areas torn by racial strife? These are just a few of the questions "Military Brats: A Living Study in Race Relations" will discuss.
  • Veteran Status and Work in Deadly Civilian Jobs: Are Veterans More Likely to Be Employed in High-Risk Occupations than Nonveterans?
    Gunsallus, April L. (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    The demand for workers in high-risk occupations is growing, as is the number of service members transitioning from military to civilian jobs. This paper will address whether veterans are more likely to hold physically hazardous occupations than nonveterans. While military jobs vary in the degree to which physical injury or death is likely, even basic entry into the military requires recruits to be mindful of risks at all times and routinely follow safety protocols. In comparison to the nonveteran workforce, veterans may experience a greater risk of holding physically hazardous jobs as a result of the jobs and skills for which they were trained in the military. This paper is part of a dissertation project which addresses fatal occupational injury. While much of the work literature on veterans has been descriptive, this study uses logistic regression to address the following questions: Are veterans overall more likely than nonveterans to hold high-risk occupations? The data come from recent pooled Veterans Supplements of the Current Population Survey.

    The trend toward increasing high-risk employment opportunity is substantiated by the latest employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The occupations with the highest projected number of new jobs, in 2022, are concentrated in health care, retail service, and construction industries. The type and number of construction jobs vary among the highest growth occupations. Most in demand in 2022 will be construction laborers (259,800); laborers and freight stock, and material movers (241,900); carpenters (218,200), and heavy and tractortrailer truck drivers (192,600). Many of these jobs are nested within industries that are well-known as "dangerous" industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, mining, construction, and manufacturing. None of these industries is evenly distributed across metropolitan (metro) and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) places, with each having greater shares of total employment in nonmetro places compared to metro areas. This dissertation will explore whether nonmetro veterans are more at risk of high-risk job holding than metro or suburban veterans. One factor possibly contributing to nonmetro veterans being in high-risk work is that they have fewer alternative employment options, suggesting an increased likelihood that nonmetro veterans would be more willing to take higher-risk jobs than their nonmetropolitan counterparts.
  • Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram. War, Writing, Reconciliation
    Duffey, Suellynn (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram is a diary written by a North Vietnamese field physician serving in South Vietnam during the war we fought there who treated Vietnamese communists and nationalists whom American GIs had wounded. The diary was captured by an American GI, Fred Whitehurst, kept against military regulations, and held for thirty-five years because of the deep affection Whitehurst had developed for the diarist and his desire to return it to her family. After the family was finally found, the diary was published, first in Vietnam and subsequently in our country and eventually in many others. The stories of its finding, its long life in Whitehurst's possession, its return, and publication globally are significant stories of reconciliations across tense, conflictual boundaries.
  • Images of Reintegration: Alternative Visual Rhetorics of the Returning World War II Soldier
    Grant, Leonard Francis III (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    During World War II, comic books and movies buoyed the public's spirits and offered hope to combat the uncertainty of a world at war. However, these visual media often did so at the expense of portraying authentic military veterans and the struggles they faced repatriating after WWII. This presentation examines two cases, the comics of Bill Mauldin and John Huston's Let There Be Light, that slipped the boundaries of their genres to portray the unglamorous lives soldiers returned home to. By defying viewers' expectations, these images created powerful visual arguments for greater social opportunities for returning warriors. This presentation offers a rhetorical analysis of the visuals these artists created and reviews how their legacy is being continued today with comics and movies that are designed to help warriors repatriate and the public to understand their needs.
  • Reconciliation as [Lofty] Aim: A Genre Analysis of Iraq War-Era Women Veterans' Memoirs
    Grohowski, Mariana (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Using the framework of rhetorical genre studies, this paper presents findings from an analysis of fifteen memoirs written by Iraq War-era women veterans. This work seeks to elucidate how the genre of "the war memoir" both permits and constrains women veterans' abilities to reconcile their identities post-military service. Studying the memoirs of Iraq War-era women veterans' of various races and sexualities, who served in a variety of Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) and branches, reveals the heavy-handed influence of sex and gender on women's identities and their sense of agency within and beyond the U.S. military.
  • Bounding Veterans Studies: A Review of the Field
    Craig, Jim (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Over the past decade, the amount of research and teaching concerning veterans has proliferated to a point where some believe there is an academic discipline of Veterans Studies. Assuming this is correct, what is Veterans Studies? Is it a social science, a humanities subject, a business discipline, or a subset of education research? Alternatively, is Veterans Studies, like veterans themselves, intrinsically multifaceted? Finally, what existing academic disciplines could be instructive for current academics in defining the limits of Veteran Studies? This paper examines the current state of Veterans Studies through a literature review. Following this review, it briefly explores the history and structure of various "Studies" fields to determine if these established disciplines could be instructive for Veterans Studies practitioners.
  • Bennett H. Young and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation
    Giguere, Joy M. (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Serving twice as Commander-in-Chief of the United Confederate Veterans, and then holding the title of Honorary Commander-in-Chief for Life until his death in 1919, Bennett H. Young was an instrumental figure in expanding the Lost Cause memorialization movement by actively supporting monument projects, attending dedication events, and giving countless orations. Throughout these activities, Young's leadership and visibility vested him with a great deal of authority when it came to shaping the minds of ex-Confederates on issues related to the Lost Cause and white reconciliation. While these two ideals were, and remain today, fundamentally at odds with each other, Young often intertwined them in his speeches, at once exhorting his audiences to revere the cause of the South but to also put to rest old prejudices for the sake of working toward a modern era of peace and prosperity. This paper examines his position as a leader of the Lost Cause movement, with a particular focus on his address delivered at the unveiling of the Confederate Soldiers' Monument at Arlington National Cemetery in 1914.
  • Outsiders of Battlefield Experience: The Journey Home for the Civil War Soldier
    Dahlstrand, Kate (Virginia Tech, 2015-11)
    Present value is applied to the rapid nature of Civil War soldiers' redeployment home. This paper explores the means by which Union and Confederate soldiers found their way home and the obstacles they encountered along the way. The expansion of federal bureaucracy in the post-war years still proved woefully underprepared to meet the needs of veterans, but the lasting relationships forged during combat created a social network that persisted for decades after the canons ceased fire.